No Regrets

I’m writing this to recall the first anniversary of Mariana’s passing. It’s good get past all these milestones: the first this; the first that without her. But, trust me: I realize that there will always be a hole in my heart. I just need to try to make some nice decorations around that hole to make it presentable.

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There was a lot of discussion during the 2017 NBA Playoffs about one of the best players on the Boston Celtics. His sister had recently died in an accident, and sports pundits opined about whether or not he should feel an obligation to continue to play while dealing with his grief, or if he would want to play (regardless of whether or not he felt an obligation).

This topic resonated with me, and here is why:

My wonderful wife Mariana passed away on February 25th, 2017. She was in rough shape for the last few months of her life, and I had to make decisions about how much or how little I would (and/or could) continue to work during this time. I wanted to be with her as much as possible, but economics dictated that I work at least part of the time. This was tricky, and I felt that there were no “right” or “wrong” answers to this issue.

Backing up a few months, a new Chicago jazz venue called Winter’s opened its doors in November of 2016, and its owner Scott Stegman  was kind enough to offer me some gigs during its opening months. But I had already accepted a gig in the pit band for a show that was having a 10-week run, so I had to respectfully decline his offer in the hopes that there’d be future opportunities. I was right, and Scott offered me a bunch of gigs, the first of which was on (yes, you guessed it) 2/25/17.

As that date approached, I was clearing my schedule as Mariana’s condition worsened. But I was so looking forward to my Winter’s debut, and they were wonderfully kind about letting me make a last-minute decision. They had someone lined to take my place if I felt unable to make it.

Waking up early in the morning of February 25, I looked across the room at Mariana in her bed, and, based on her stillness, my suspicions were true: she had come to the end of her journey. I’ll spare the details, but it was a surreal (but inevitable) end to a journey of my own. And also for the journeys of our boys Charlie and Luke. We said our goodbyes and let the new reality sink in as best as we were able.

Some time that afternoon, I realized that I needed to decide about the Winter’s gig. I reflected on the questions that arose: Should I stay home and be with Luke, Charlie and close friends and family? Or, if I chose to play the gig, would it be disrespectful of Mariana’s memory so soon after her passing? And would I be able to focus (and stay awake) after this long, stressful and exhausting day?

I decided to go for it: the bandstand has long been a sanctuary for me, and the chance to make music with some of my favorite players (Andy Baker, Larry Kohut and Phil Gratteau) beckoned with the possibility of taking my mind off of what had just occurred. I’m glad that I did: making a joyful noise surrounded by friends, family and random music-lovers was a balm for my soul. That, plus a couple of cocktails.

From my extremely unreliable perspective (I recall feeling like I had dropped some LSD), the music felt much like it would have on any other night. Perhaps a bit more heartfelt. I keep meaning to find an opportune moment to ask Andy, Larry or Phil how they recall that evening. 

Is there a moral to this story? I don’t know. Maybe it’s to trust your instincts. And let the chips fall where they may. 

 

Comments

  1. Well, I remember that day very clearly of course – I’m glad you played the gig (and I’m fairly certain I would do the same).
    I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say much and we played music. I remember a bunch of musicians came out, just to be there with you and let you know they were thinking about you.
    It’s a strange thing to say, but I’m glad I was there to take part in what felt like more of a celebration of life than a mourning.

  2. Vicki Auditore says:

    “Is there a moral to this story? I don’t know. Maybe it’s to trust your instincts. And let the chips fall where they may.”

    God bless you Jeremy… I needed to read your post today. Especially that last line.

    Take care my friend – Hugs Vicki-

  3. Ken Karlson says:

    I hope you can feel all the love and respect coming to you and the boys. Your beautiful wife is surely proud as can be. We will all be together again. I stumble to say the right things, so I will let the chips fall as they may. God bless you….again!

  4. Jim Jennings says:

    Oh, yeah, I can hear it in your playing! Mariana’s on those bandstands, right with you, always has been, always will be.

  5. My wonderful husband Andreas died of Gliblastoma, a very aggressive brain cancer. We had no children and really no family to speak of so I was his sole caregiver. It was a VERY rough time from beginning to end. I needed to be with him most of the time but he began telling me I should still have things I loved to do. We were in Doha Qatar when he was diagnosed. That in itself made things tricky. I found some things that I could do a few hours during the day and he always encouraged me. It was a difficult thing to do but was the only way I found to remain sane thru those agonizing months. He loved me so he wanted me to be alive. It was the same with Mariana and you. She loved you and wanted you to live and do the things you love. They knew who we were when they fell in love and married us. We are not easy people. Art and temperament were always part of the package.
    The first year is hard, you’re right. The first Birthday, the first Anniversary, the first Holiday the first This then the first That. All that time I still had some crazy thought he might still walk thru the door one day and I would wake from some awful dream. But you and I know that doesn’t happen.
    Do the things you love. Do the things that make you who you are. That’s why she loved you. She wouldn’t want you to change. That you went and played that night was exactly what she would have wanted for you. I’m so glad you had a place to go and loving friends to be with. Music and friends are such a great comfort in hard times.
    A week after Andreas died I found some old lead sheets in a box in the basement and went out to sing again after not being on the stage for twenty years! People probably thought I was nuts but I knew that Andreas would just think Go on Ty. Live your life and remember the love we had. Mariana thinks the same for you.
    What amazing, loving, strong people we married, loved and built lives with. We have been greatly blessed and we will always love them. They are always close to us, Watching, smiling and guiding as they always did. Of this I have no doubt. Live…..and they live on thru us.

  6. Amanda Wolff says:

    You’re right that, there is no right or wrong, even though it can feel like there is. The only thing to do is what *feels* right and I think your choice to play was both a beautiful and courageous tribute and a powerful step toward future healing.

  7. Tarree Collins says:

    I didn’t have a gig to play the day Bob, my best friend/accompanist of 30 years died, 7 weeks ago. Pretty short-sighted planning of a twenty-five year old when we formed our duo, I guess. Even the possibility of a “no tomorrow” ever entered my mind, back then.
    So, when I left his bedside that morning, I went home to an empty and silent house. The thought of music resonating through this place – without him in it – knocked the wind out of me. But today, after reading how you used music as balm to soothe your aching heart, I turned on my Bose and let the music flow for the first time. And, I DID cry, and for a second, couldn’t catch my breath. I am not yet “making” joyful noise, but the rest of my day was surrounded by it. Your touching missive inspired me to at least start. As for singing again… I guess I too will let the chips fall as they may. Thank you.

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